Back in Business

Air America launches today. It's available for online streaming, but predictably, the sites are being overwhelmed with eager listeners. And they said this thing wouldn't work.

Join Salon

It's cheap, and they deserve it, if for no other reason than because they photoshop beautiful pictures like this one:

I'll read the article and get back to you later on the rest. But come on--it's like 35 bucks for a year's worth, and you get all sorts of bonuses.

I want some more

Thanks, Atrios.

This article comes from a magazine that I refuse to read. I didn't like it when they endorsed Joe Lieberman for President, and I don't like that they insist on referring to the magazine as liberal, but this article is a good one.

Thanks to their issue advantage, Democrats have scored repeated guerrilla victories that play directly into Kerry's campaign message. Earlier this month, for instance, Republicans tried to pass a White House-backed bill replacing U.S. export subsidies ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization with big new tax breaks for business. But, as the Post recently put it, "The bill has become a difficult testing ground for Republicans against a Democratic onslaught." GOP leader Bill Frist had to yank the bill after Democrats barraged it with pro-worker amendments and attached an amendment barring federal contractors from outsourcing government jobs abroad (even Frist himself felt compelled to support the amendment). The bill's future prospects don't look much brighter, with Democrats prepared to press amendments on corporate tax shelters, transfers of manufacturing plants overseas, and a Labor Department rule limiting worker overtime-pay rights. All of these are useful Kerry issues.

The fact is that Senate Democrats have finally become an opposition party--that's not to denigrate the efforts of the House Democrats; the Republican majority is larger and that gives DeLay a lot more power--and not a moment too soon. I wish this had happened in 2002, but that was pre-Dean, and pre-"It's okay to say that the President really sucks." So for better or for worse, the Senate Democrats have gotten fired up, and that's a wonderful thing to see. Daschle has done a good job as minority leader in the last couple of months, and the reinvigoration of Ted Kennedy as the liberal standard bearer is heartening, and Dick Durbin is quickly becoming one of my favorite Senators.

They're keeping expectations low, as well they should, but I and many others are increasingly hopeful about the shape the Senate could take come November. And this article from Salon about Barack Obama shows part of the reason why.

Where's the beef?

Apparently, religious thought is the sole province of the Republican party, or so they claim.

John Kerry cited a Bible verse to criticize leaders who have "faith but has no deeds," prompting President Bush's spokesman to accuse Kerry of exploiting Scripture for a political attack....

Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said Kerry's comment "was beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse and a sad exploitation of Scripture for a political attack."

So what is within the bounds of acceptable discourse if you're a Democrat? I'm starting to think the Republicans would cry foul if we rolled over and presented rearly at election time.

I can understand why the Republicans would blow a gasket over this. They feel threatened on nearly every front right now. Employment is down, the stock market is volatile at best, but is still lower than they would like it to be, and Bush's numbers are dropping in the one place he can't afford to lose support--foreign policy and the war with al-Qaeda. The one place they have to figure that Bush is safe is with Christian conservatives, and Kerry just trod onto their sacred ground.

Good work. Every second we make inroads into Bush's base, that's one more second Bush has to spend shoring it up, and one less second he can spend coming after Kerry's base.

But more importantly, good work because the quote was used in context and was appropriate. It bothers me greatly when anyone--but politicians, especially--take portions of the Bible or any other religious text out of context for their own selfish gain. This was dead-on accurate.

Upon further reflection, I'm a little surprised that the Bush campaign didn't fire back with "the Devil can cite scripture to his purpose." I guess maybe some of those swing voter Christians might have taken exception.

The Only Reason to Have Cable

If I ever decide to get cable again (and I wouldn't bet on it happening any time soon), it will be solely to watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He's always funny, but at times, he's devastating, especially when he shows up the news media for the bunch of fatuous sellouts they've become. Watch this clip that completely deconstructs the attacks on Richard Clarke, and you'll get a sense for just how badly the news media is doing its job.

Edit: I had the wrong link up for a little while--it's corrected.

Al-Qaeda and the Cole

I remember that while watching the testimony before the 9/11 commission last week that there was a lot of discussion about the Cole bombing, about assessing blame and determining who was responsible for the bombing itself and when the CIA made the call to put it on Al-Qaeda.

I might have to go back and look at the transcripts, but my recollection was that the Republicans on the committee were trying to put the official blame on Al-Qaeda as early as late 2000, while Albright, Tenet, Clarke and Berger dated it to sometime after the handover to the Bush administration.

The only reason I bring this up is that I was reading Colin Powell's Statement upon the release of the Patterns of Global Terrorism, looking for the charge made in today's Daily Mislead that

Specifically, on April 30, 2001, CNN reported that the Bush Administration's release of the government's annual terrorism report contained a serious change: "there was no extensive mention of alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden" as there had been in previous years. When asked why the Administration had reduced the focus, "a senior Bush State Department official told CNN the U.S. government made a mistake in focusing so much energy on bin Laden."2.
That 2 leads to an unlinked CNN story, and so I went to the State Department's report on Patterns of Global Terrorism for 2000 to see if I could the original material. I haven't yet found what the Misleader was talking about, but I did find this statement from Colin Powell's remarks.
The continuing investigation of the bombing of the USS Cole, a probe that involved a wide number of countries, has thus far been productive and continues to move forward.

So as of April 30, 2001, the official position of the State Department was that the Cole bombing was still under investigation. It's also interesting that Powell mentions Bin laden only once and only in relation to the fact that the Taliban is harboring him, and al-Qaeda not at all, in his comments. That might indicate that the administration was indeed more focused on states than on terrorist groups.

On Clarke's performance today
Billmon has a hell of an analysis, but the last point he made is I think the most salient to the re-election chances for Dear Leader. He says

But I don't think the base is their big problem now -- it's the middle, the mainstream, even (or especially) the mainstream media, which has been forced by today's testimony to award Clarke the legitimacy it has denied to other administration critics, even Paul O'Neill. Now they'll expect the White House to give them the steak, not just the sizzle. They're going to demand more serious answers. So far, though the administration has shown no sign it thinks it can hold its own in that kind of debate.

If Bush doesn't have the base motivated after 3+ years of pandering and giving them damn near everything he could, then he'll never have them and he ought to go back to Crawford now instead of losing 49 states. That said--keep it up with the red meat to your base, Mr. President. The Democrats will gladly welcome every single one of those swing voters you seem so willing to alienate right now.

The Supreme Court and the Pledge

Michael Newdow argued his case before the big 8 today--apparently Scalia will recuse himself when he figures a case is in the bag--and if the reporting is accurate, the Supremes will do pretty much what I expected them to do when I heard the points they were going to examine.

Based on questioning from the justices, it appears that Newdow’s primary problem will be to convince them that he has legal standing in the case.

I'm certainly no legal expert, but I saw this one coming a mile away. There are certainly some on the Court--Scalia most notably--who have no problem with allowing a melding of church and state as exists in the pledge. But for those who might actually look at the merits of Newdow's argument and find an honest yet politically untenable or distasteful decision in the works, the question of standing is their out.

Despite the spin placed on this case by those people who are trying to cast this as a struggle for the immortal soul of the country, the Court isn't actually deciding whether or not having the words "under God" is constitutional or not. They're supposed to be looking at "1. Whether respondent has standing to challenge as unconstitutional a public school district policy that requires teachers to lead willing students in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. 2. Whether a public school district policy that requires teachers to lead willing students in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, which includes the words "under God," violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, as applicable through the Fourteenth Amendment."

Looking at the case that strictly would certainly give the Court plenty of room to rule against Newdow without stating directly that leaving "under God" in the pledge is okay. My prediction? Newdow goes down 8-0 on the standing issue in a decision written by one of the more liberal members and a separate concurrence by Thomas or Rehnquist or maybe even O'Connor argues for the validity of the inclusion of "under God." Just a guess.

Personal notes

Yesterday, I went to a spring training game in Fort Lauderdale between the Orioles and the Red Sox. I didn't really have a dog in that hunt since my two favorite baseball teams are the Cubs and whoever is playing the Yankees--yeah, I'm a glutton for punishment--but it was interesting to see two teams that will make up a significant percentage of the latter of my favorites.

And I have to make this observation--it was only a spring training game, I know, and Nomar and Millar didn't play, but Manny's and Ortiz's bats looked a bit slow and against Orioles pitching, which is not vaunted to say the least, that's not good news.

The game was entertaining--the Orioles tied it in the seventh (eighth? not sure) when Tejada doubled, stole third and came home on a throw that escaped into the outfield, and the Sox won it in the top of the ninth when some little guy with major wheels (#76, I think--no name on the jersey) tripled home the go ahead run. The Sox closed them out with a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth for the win. Fast game, clocking in at about 2:35.

In other news, my girlfriend dragged me to the new Charlie Kauffman film "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." I swear to God, I'm going to anything this guy writes no matter who stars in it. Jim Carrey is one of those actors who just makes me cringe, but even he couldn't screw this material up. it is touching and weird and utterly fascinating and besides, you get to see Kirsten Dunst dancing on a bed in panties and a wife-beater (and there's a hint of nipple peeking through--oh yeah). Go see this movie.

Lastly, as a bit of an update on the Richard Clarke brouhaha--I saw him on the Jim Lehrer Newshour tonight and he mentioned that the reason his book is coming out in the middle of a presidential campaign is because the White House was sitting on it for the last three months clearing it. Three months and they've got no better defense for the charges than "Clarke worked for Clinton?" I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop whenever these kinds of revelations about the inner workings of the White House are revealed, and yet that shoe just hangs in the air like the Roadrunner. Meep meep.

The Richard Clarke interview

In case you missed it, Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes interviewed former head of counter-terrorism Richard Clarke tonight. Atrios and Josh Marshall have been all over this story all day, and have done far better analysis than I could, so I suggest you head over there for more indepth coverage.

I will say this much, though. If you've been following this story closely, there weren't any real surprises in what Clark had to say. What I mean is that nothing he said was even remotely out of the range of possibility. After all, the Hart-Rudman Report was virtually ignored in the months leading up to 9-11, and the constant stonewalling of the Kean Commission investigating the September 11 attacks has led to some interesting theories as to the US's state of preparedness in the months preceding it.

What was most interesting about the interview was the level of insider detail that Clarke provided, and the inability of Stephen Hadley to refute the most damning allegation that Bush had confronted Clarke directly asking for a connection between Hussein and al-Qaeda. That moment, combined with Rumsfeld's "hommina hommina hommina" moment last week on Face the Nation (warning: pdf file), makes me wonder if we would even be in Iraq if either the press or the Democratic party had actually done their jobs and questioned these clowns. Their misstatements are getting clumsier and clumsier every day.

And yet, I hesitate to say that any blow we deal them on the credibility front will be death-dealing, because there are still plenty of people like this. Tell me, how much evidence does it take for a true believer to admit that his or her president is really the one full of shit?

Random notes

So since I've been in Florida, I have been sucked into my girlfriend's karaoke habit (Scroll down to the March 3 entry for pictures). Since I have no real singing talent, I have decided that tonight I will reprise "Rocketman" as performed by William Shatner and mocked by Stewie. Here's hoping it goes as well as my last performance, a rousing rendition of Monty Python's "Sit on my face."

Tomorrow, I'll be going to a spring training game between the Red Sox and the Orioles in Fort Lauderdale. I'm quite excited about it, even though I have only a passing interest in both teams. All I really care about is that I want both teams to beat the hell out of the Yankees this year. It probably won't happen, but I can dream.

Lastly, go to my girlfriend's blog and look at the pictures she downloaded from today's peace protests around the world. We were thinking about going to Miami today, but after what happened to the FTAA protestors, I will confess to a bit of cowardice. I'm not proud of it, but there it is. And for the record, I was the chickenshit--not my girlfriend.

The Myth of Rugged Individualism

I just finished watching Howard Dean's speech announcing the formation of DFA 2.0, and his plans for the group are exactly what I was hoping for.

The plan is to turn the newly titled Democracy for America" organization into a resource for progressive candidates while working with the existing party, and it's a good one. One of the more intriguing ideas Dean mentioned was called "campaign in a box," an information trove for people getting into politics for the first time. I'll be looking into it more deeply in a couple of years when I get settled into a community.

But the part of the speech that spoke most loudly to me was the concentration on the idea of Americans as a community, as compared to the rugged individualism meme that Ronald Reagan espoused.

The fact is that in this day and age, the number of people in the US who could survive outside civilized society is small and is shrinking rapidly, and to be honest, those who can or try to are often scary. For Republicans, "rugged individualism" means lower taxes and no penalties for hiring illegals to watch our kids and clean our houses. Okay, so that's an exaggeration--it's only the Reagan Republicans who are of that ilk.

But they've dominated the debate so long that we've lost sight of ourselves as a society, a group of people who depend on each other to make a better life for ourselves. This book is quite instructive on this matter. Robert Wright argues that society evolved because it was advantageous for human development for it to do so, that greater strides for humans in general come from working together than from working separately.

It's so simple that it would seem self-evident. And yet we mythologize the individual as the paragon of humankind. It's crap.

Everyone depends on everyone else--if we were a species of individuals, we wouldn't have nearly the advancements in technology, medicine, science, art, literature, politics or any other field you can name that we do now. We have to work together--Ben Franklin said it best when he said "We must all hang together, or indeed, we shall all hang separately." The Founding Fathers weren't individualists or anarchists--they just didn't like the leaders they had and wanted others. But they didn't believe in breaking down the systems that existed at the time.

More on this later.

Shorter David Brooks

"Everyone knows that conservatives are the adults, so to vote against us after a terrorist attack means you're a coward. And Colin Powell sucks."

What pisses me off about this whole line of argument--because you can't call it reasoning--is the arrogance of the "conservative" viewpoint--the idea that only conservatives can be strong in the fight against terrorist groups, and that a vote for any other group is a form of capitulation or appeasement. Seems to me that we've given the conservatives their chance in this fight, and their success has been limited at best. Time to give us a shot at it.

And while I'm at it--has it occurred to anyone--anyone at all--that no one has presented any proof that Al-Qaeda was indeed trying to influence the election in Spain, and if they were, that they got the outcome they were hoping for? Isn't it possible that this attack backfired on them politically?

Bah. Read Krugman instead. He's got it right.

The latest Bushit

Credit to Ezra at Pandagon for this.

The article itself is fairly pedestrian stuff, but this paragraph jumps out at you.

Administration sources tell TIME that employees at the Department of Homeland Security have been asked to keep their eyes open for opportunities to pose the President in settings that might highlight the Administration's efforts to make the nation safer. The goal, they are being told, is to provide Bush with one homeland-security photo-op a month.

Doesn't the Department of Homeland Security have more important things to do than keep an eye out for Presidential photo-ops? You know, like inspect some cargo containers or something?

New Links

I'd like to welcome some new folks to the links on the sidebar: Downstown, Pesky the Rat, and Cyclopatra. Check them out--they're a lot of fun.

Poetry Update

Last year, a guy I was in the MFA program with at the University of Arkansas by the name of Tony Tost won the Walt Whitman award. His book should be out sometime this spring, and I'll review it when it comes out.

I just got word that one of my fellow Stegner Fellows, Robin Ekiss, who is one hell of a poet, is a finalist for this year's Whitman award. It would be extremely cool if I wound up knowing two in a row. Best of luck, Robin, and congratulations to the incoming Stegner fellows. (I'd list their names here, but I don't think it's right to pre-empt Stanford.) I'll link their announcement when it hits the website.

It has begun!
The new form of the Dean campaign, that is. Just got this letter in the old email box.

The Dean Campaign was a direct challenge to the political status quo in America. It was a campaign to change America in some fundamental ways. It was not a campaign for the fainthearted.

While we did not succeed in winning the nomination, we did succeed in changing the Democratic status quo.

We took on President Bush frontally with regard to the war in Iraq, with respect to the Patriotic Act, and the President's unworkable No Child Left Behind program - and the other leading contenders joined in. We showed backbone as we campaigned and it stiffened the backs of all Democrats.

The Dean campaign succeeded in beginning to change the spirit and direction of the Democratic Party. But we didn't do it alone. There were others who shared our views, our determination, and our commitment to fundamental change.

None was more important that Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL-2). In good times and bad, when we were up and when we were down, he stood with us and worked hard every step of the way. He asked for nothing but an assignment to help us win.

It's important that we continue the fight to change America and the Democratic Party - and financially support those who have joined us and are willing to continue that fight. Now Congressman Jackson confronts his own re-election challenges and we need to help.

If you would like to say "Thank You" to Congressman Jackson for all of his help and support of the Dean Campaign you may do so through his campaign website at Be as generous as you can be, but know that every $10, $25 or $50 contribution counts. I know he'll appreciate it.

Governor Howard Dean, M.D.

When it became apparent that Dean wouldn't win the nomination, this is what I hoped DFA would turn into--an advocate and a fundraiser for progressive voices in Congress and for those people who want to run for Congress as progressive Democrats. But unlike a presidential campaign that requires tens, if not hundred of millions of dollars, seats for the House of Representatives can be challenged successfully with far fewer funds, and an influx of cash from a progressive group can make a whale of a difference.

So to the three or four of you who read this (and I may be overestimating my audience at that), I'm asking you to throw a couple of bucks Jesse Jr.'s way and add, oh, 14 cents to the end of the donation to show it came from readers of the Incertus weblog. I'm sending mine in right now.

What's the matter? Can't Bush take a little criticism?

Thanks to poster JamesB3 over at the Daily Kos for the heads up on this little gem of a story.

CLEVELAND - A state maintenance worker was suspended after he displayed a sign with the word "traitor" on a snowplow while helping provide security for President Bush's motorcade, the Ohio Department of Transportation said.

The article doesn't go into why he was suspended--just notes that he was suspended and will be facing a disciplinary hearing next week where he could face anything from a verbal reprimand to dismissal. What the hell has happened to this country? I hope his union rep tears the state DOT a new asshole over this.

Starsky and Hutch

See it. It's funny. It's funnier than Jon Stewart's take on the State of the Union Address. Well okay, maybe not quite that funny, but it was still really good. It's worth the price to see it on the big screen, and won't make you hate Jews nearly as much as the Jesus Chainsaw Massacre will.

Poetry time

I was reminded today that my weblog title includes Poetics and Travelogues. I included those two topics fully intending to blog on those items, and yet I have been woefully lacking in both categories thus far. Time to rectify that.

I've been in a dry spot lately. Not a good thing when you're getting paid to write. But I've been doing some research for this class where I'll be an assistant this quarter, and I've been rereading an essay by Seamus Heaney from his book of prose entitled Preoccupations. The essay is entitled "Feeling into Words" and deals largely with finding a voice and the difference between what Heaney calls "craft" and "technique."

Simply put, "craft" is the ability to form lines of poetry into metrical units that are pleasing to the ear, that might rhyme or not, and that show that you were indeed paying attention and not just vomiting onto the page. As Heaney himself puts it, "Craft is what you can learn from other verse. Craft is the skill of making."

"Technique," however, is a bastard of a different sort. It involves craft, but it includes much, much more. Heaney says, "It involves also a definition of his [the poet's] stance towards life, a definition of his own reality. It involves the discovery of ways to go out of his cognitive bounds and raid the inarticulate: a dynamic alertness that mediates between the origins of feeling in memory and experience and the formal ploys that express these in a work of art." And far be it from me to dispute a Nobel Laureate.

But for me, there is one other element that must be included. Honesty.

I'm not talking about factual accuracy. Accuracy is something that we should demand of our journalists. Honesty is something that should be demanded of your poets and storytellers.

In his poem "Poetry and Religion," Les Murray writes these lines:

You can't pray a lie, said Huckleberry Finn;
you can't poe one either. It is the same mirror:
mobile, glancing, we call it poetry,
and I think he's got it exactly right there. In order for poetry to last the ages, it must, absolutely must, contain some truth and it must be honest about it. Leave short-sightedness and lying to the politicians. Poets should be made of sterner stuff than that.

Remember the gay marriage poll?

I remember that for me, one of the seminal moments that showed the potential power of the blogosphere was when the AFA, the organization headed up by the Rev. Donald Wildmon, presented a pollfor its members on the subject of gay marriage. Despite the obvious unreliability of internet polls, it was certainly the AFA's intention to present their findings to Congress in support of their desire for a Consitutional amendment banning same-sex unions. It backfired horribly. The last time I saw results, gay marriage and civil unions were winning almost two-to-one.

But that hasn't stopped Wildmon, because lookie what I got in my email box this morning.


You help is requested in gaining the opinion of on-line voters to the
following question. Whom do you favor for the next President of the United
States - John Kerry, George W. Bush, or Ralph Nader?

Go to to express
your opinion.

Cast your vote. Forward to a friend. Help us feel the pulse of America.



Donald E. Wildmon, Founder and Chairman
American Family Association
The current results?
As of 7:35 a.m. EST (I can't freaking believe I'm up this early), the tally was 25,789 for Kerry, 1,023 for Bush and 1,857 for Nader. They've put in a protection against script generated voting, but there's no reason we can't skew these results as badly as we did the the first poll's. Get going y'all!

More on the corporate voice in politics

So I just finished watching this documentary entitled Unprecedented. The 2000 Presidential Election. It didn't tell me anything I didn't already know thanks to reporting by Greg Palast or, but it was good to see all the information in one place and presented so coherently. It was a good overview, in other words.

One of the special features on the dvd deals with the rise of corporate political power. It's very fashionable today to dismiss people who warn against the rise of corporate power as hopeless Luddites who only want to throw wooden shoes into the workings of the global economy, but in political terms, the threat that corporations pose to democracy as we know it is very real.

Corporations, like any other entity, have a vested interest in getting and maintaining access to those in positions of power, and because they are essentially machines for making money, it's easier for them to influence those in power, far easier than it is for any individual, even if you are independently wealthy.

One of the people interviewed for the documentary pointed out this very salient point, and it's related to my last post. Corporations are viewed as legal persons, but they're not citizens at least in the sense of not being able to vote. So why do we allow them to influence our politics? Why should we allow any entity, whether a corporation, a union, an advocacy group, a PAC, or any other type of group to contribute money to political parties or politicians? And don't raise First Amendment issues to me--I'm not talking about limiting their rights of free speech or their ability to purchase advertising on the open market--I'm talking about corporate donations to parties, donations that translate into favorable legislation or access. If they're not persons able to cast votes, then why should they be allowed to influence our political system?

Corporate Free Speech

Can someone tell me, in small words and simple simple sentence construction, why exactly corporations have free speech rights, or any rights of citizenship, for that matter?

Perhaps it's time for us to reconsider exactly what purpose they serve in society. They are useful machines for making money and limiting risk, and I'm not suggesting we should do away with them for that purpose, but it seems to me that they've turned into a Frankenstein's monster of sorts.

The kinds of rights they're asking for boggle the mind. Nike has argued, unsuccessfully thus far, that it has the right to lie, and Pacific Lumber Company recently underwrote a recall attempt against Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos because GASP! he had the balls to do his job.

The article I've linked goes into greater depth on this subject and gives many more details, but here's the point I want to make. When individuals try to pull the kind of crap that some of the corporations are currently trying, at the very least there's a face that protestors and law enforcement officials can go after. But how do you arrest Nike? Or Wal-Mart? Or Pacific Lumber? I think we're long past due reexamining the citizen status of corporations--they have most of the advantages and few of the responsibilities accorded to citizens, and the extreme amounts of money they control makes them for more powerful than most people could ever conceive.

Howdy from south Florida

I plan to spend the next three weeks wearing nothing more formal than sandals and shorts (which is typical of me when I have the option). About the only drawback I've seen about living in San Francisco is that for a large portion of the year, you have to wear a jacket everywhere.

But on to the topic of the day--more on same-sex marriage. This is an old opinion piece from the Irish Times by Jim Duffy that deals with a book written by the late Yale Professor John Boswell. Let me put this disclaimer on this post right up front--I've not read Boswell's book and I'm certainly no expert on the liturgy of the medieval Catholic Church, so realize that I'm working with a very limited set of facts here and I'm going to make a rhetorical leap or two.

That said--Duffy and Boswell lay out a fairly persuasive case that the church has had a, well, malleable viewpoint of same-sex relationships over the years.

Contrary to myth, Christianity's concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has evolved both as a concept and as a ritual. Prof Boswell discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient church liturgical documents (and clearly separate from other types of non-marital blessings such as blessings of adopted children or land) were ceremonies called, among other titles, the "Office of Same Sex Union" (10th and 11th century Greek) or the "Order for Uniting Two Men" (11th and 12th century).

These ceremonies had all the contemporary symbols of a marriage: a community gathered in church, a blessing of the couple before the altar, their right hands joined as at heterosexual marriages, the participation of a priest, the taking of the Eucharist, a wedding banquet afterwards. All of which are shown in contemporary drawings of the same sex union of Byzantine Emperor Basil I (867-886) and his companion John. Such homosexual unions also took place in Ireland in the late 12th/early 13th century, as the chronicler Gerald of Wales (Geraldus Cambrensis) has recorded.

I've tried to find some sources that would contradict Boswell's claims directly. This review of Boswell's book by Gerald Bray, Anglican professor of divinity at Samford University's Beeson Divinity School, Birmingham, Alabama argues that Boswell's gay marriage rites were actually an affirmation of friendship, a "ritual brotherhood," and thinks that this only seems strange because of the way that male-female relationships have changed over the past centuries.
A little thought will remind us that virtually every creative activity in human history, other than physical reproduction, has been the product of same-sex friendship, manifested in different ways among women as well as men. It is when people get together in such friendships and share ideas that things start to happen. Unfortunately, the radical wing of the feminist movement has made the destruction of male society a specific policy goal. In this context, the linkage of male friendship with homosexuality is tragic, because it deprives men of the rationale they need to resist the feminist onslaught. By seeking to further this identification, Boswell is contributing to the destruction of Western culture because he cannot appreciate same-sex friendship, which he rightly regards as potentially very deep and very significant for society as a whole, in nonsexual terms. Turning friendship into marriage is just as mistaken as turning marriage into friendship; categories are confused, and both suffer as a result.

Now I have to admit, I've never heard the argument that marriage and friendship were meant to be two separate types of relationships, but that is what's being argued here. Ultimately, however, Bray doesn't disprove Boswell's thesis. He argues that Boswell is trying to interpret ancient liturgies through gay-colored glasses, without taking into account the different social structures of the times. One could make the same argument about Bray.
So here's my question. Why hasn't there been more written on this subject? No one seems to have either followed up on Boswell's work or taken up the task of disproving him. The opinion piece I quoted above dates back to 1998 and Bray's criticism dates back to 1994. Surely there has to have been more work done on this in the last 6-10 years. Had Boswell's theories been discredited, surely there would have been some outcry from the traditional sources, and had it been affirmed, same-sex marriage advocates would be flourishing it about. Or maybe the answer is just that, as many have been saying ever since Mayor Newsom threw this into the spotlight a few weeks ago, marriage is an institution that has been malleable over the years and this is going to be the newest incarnation.

Heading for the airport, so I'll be blogging from sunny Florida for the next three weeks. Don't weep for me.

My message to DFA

The top thread on the Dean blog, a place, admittedly, I've been avoiding lately because it brings up painful memories, asked what topics future threads should address. Here's my reply.

I don't know if anyone else has mentioned this--I assume others have, so add my name to the list. The most important task we have as a group must be the retaking of the Congress as soon as possible. So what I want to see from the BFA is recommendations for where we can send our (at times) limited funds. Where can we make an impact? Where can we help people get elected who will then owe the progressive voices who helped them in their times of need? What candidates are most like Howard Dean, the person we were inspired by?

We trust you--you've earned our support, financial and otherwise, so help us channel this newfound energy into something profound and long-lasting.

There's been a lot of talk about DFA 2.0 and Change For America, but thus far, very little action. Time to kick this pig, fellas.

Gutter Politics and the Republican Party

After today, the Republican Party and their representatives no longer have the moral right to complain about gutter politics or the quality of political discourse. Mind you, they lost that right long ago, right about the time they started accusing a sitting president of murder and gun-running and the media not only let them off, but aided and abetted them in the act, but it's time for yet another rhetorical kick in the balls to what once was the party of Lincoln, but is now only the party of, well, insert your own expletive here.

Let's start with Ann Coulter, who in her column today as described by Jesse Taylor at Pandagon, not only tackles the Bible, "she chop blocks it, kicks it in the head, and as it's getting up, she pulls out a knife and stabs it in the back 70 times 7 times (she read that somewhere), all the while claiming self-defense."

Here's her article. I'll clip out a few of her more egregious errors for your perusal.

...the unavoidable conclusion is that liberals haven't the vaguest idea what Christianity is....

But the loony-left is testy with Gibson for spending so much time on Jesus' suffering and death while giving "short shrift to Jesus' ministry and ideas" – as another Times reviewer put it. According to liberals, the message of Jesus, which somehow Gibson missed, is something along the lines of "be nice to people" (which to them means "raise taxes on the productive").

You don't need a religion like Christianity, which is a rather large and complex endeavor, in order to flag that message. All you need is a moron driving around in a Volvo with a bumper sticker that says "be nice to people." Being nice to people is, in fact, one of the incidental tenets of Christianity (as opposed to other religions whose tenets are more along the lines of "kill everyone who doesn't smell bad and doesn't answer to the name Mohammed"). But to call it the "message" of Jesus requires ... well, the brain of Maureen Dowd.

In fact, Jesus' distinctive message was: People are sinful and need to be redeemed, and this is your lucky day because I'm here to redeem you even though you don't deserve it, and I have to get the crap kicked out of me to do it. That is the reason He is called "Christ the Redeemer" rather than "Christ the Moron Driving Around in a Volvo With a 'Be Nice to People' Bumper Sticker on It."

I don't make this stuff up, folks--I'm not that good. In one act of verbal assassination, Coulter manages to insult liberals, Christians, and Muslims (why am I surprised she didn't actually call them Mohammedans?) and neglects the largest part of Christ's ministry, namely the turn away from the Mosaic Law and toward the Golden Rule and the two greatest commandments, which as I recall can be summed up as "Love God and Love your Neighbor as yourself."

But hey, Coulter is a columnist and even some of those on her side don't like her because they think she's a loon. It's not like she's a Republican Congressman saying that a vote for Kerry is a vote for Bin Laden. And yes folks, he did say it, even though he's trying to crawfish out of it today.
U-S Representative Tom Cole might have stirred up Democrats by saying a vote against the re-election of President Bush is like supporting Adolph Hitler during World War Two. Or supporting Osama bin Laden now. "If George Bush loses the election, Osama bin Laden wins the election," Cole is quoted in this week's edition of the Yukon Review which covered the recent meeting of the Canadinan County Republicans where Cole was a speaker. The newspaper says Cole claims if Bush loses his re-election bid, the enemies of the U-S will interpret it as a victory for bin Laden.
I'd be shocked, shocked! if this were the first time something like this has happened, but we know this is old hat for the Republican party. Three words to prove my point: Senator Saxby Chambliss.

But hey, he's just an Oklahoma congressman, after all, and certainly not indicative of the mindset of mainstream Republican thought and political discourse. Well then, how's about we take a look at the reaction to the President's new campaign commercials.
The Bush reelection campaign yesterday unveiled its first three campaign commercials showcasing Ground Zero images, angering some 9/11 families who accused President Bush of exploiting the tragedy for political advantage.

"It's a slap in the face of the murders of 3,000 people," said Monica Gabrielle, whose husband died in the twin tower attacks. "It is unconscionable."

Gabrielle and several other family members said the injury was compounded by Bush's refusal to testify in open session before the 9/11 commission.

"I would be less offended if he showed a picture of himself in front of the Statue of Liberty," said Tom Roger, whose daughter was a flight attendant on doomed American Airlines Flight 11. "But to show the horror of 9/11 in the background, that's just some advertising agency's attempt to grab people by the throat."

Mindy Kleinberg said she was offended because the White House has not cooperated fully with the commission and because of the sight of remains being lifted out of Ground Zero in one of the spots.

"How heinous is that?" Kleinberg asked. "That's somebody's [loved one]."

Firefighter Tommy Fee in Rescue Squad 270 in Queens was appalled.

"It's as sick as people who stole things out of the place. The image of firefighters at Ground Zero should not be used for this stuff, for politics," Fee said.

Now first things first--the Bush administration has long said that they would not attempt to exploit the 9-11 attacks for political gain, even though they raised funds with a picture of Bush taken on 9-11, ran attack ads against Max Cleland equating him with Osama Bin Laden and are holding their national convention in September in New York and have even considered using Ground Zero as one of the places to stage speeches or that the President has refused to meet with the 9-11 commission for more than an hour while they continue to investigate. Not that they have a lack of credibility on this issue or anything.

No--the really bad part of this is that Karen Hughes, Bush's top campaign adviser, said "I can understand why some Democrats might not want the American people to remember the great leadership and strength the president and first lady Laura Bush brought to our country in the aftermath of that." Some Democrats? To my knowledge, the party affiliations of the people interviewed for the article, the people who were leveliing very valid criticisms of the commercials--not his time in office, mind you, just the ads--were never mentioned. But it had to be Democrats, because they're criticizing the President.

So that's my screed for today--Republicans don't have the right to talk about gutter politics anymore, not until they cut this shit out and start kicking their own people in the teeth.

How could they have missed this?

None of the big time bloggers are on this story, and not only is it on the CNN front page, it was on the front page of my cell phone's CNN home page.

An excerpt, you say? Why certainly:

A woman charged with causing a fatal car crash in 1999 says that she couldn't have been behind the wheel because she was performing a sex act on the driver at the time....

Specyalski claims that Esposito was driving, and she was performing oral sex on him at the time, said her attorney, Jeremiah Donovan. He noted that Esposito's pants were down when he was thrown from the car.

In other news, the apoclaypse will begin in Multnomah county Oregon now, since the dark powers that rule us all decided that if they started it in San Francisco, everyone would just think that it was time for the next party.

And in a move that surely averted a disaster of regal proportions, a parrot that curses and pecks people when angry has been removed from the HMS Lancaster in order to avoid any embarassment when Queen Elizabeth visits the ship. Methinks J-Lo needs to give Her Royal Highness a tip or two on how to be a diva.

Taxes Taxes taxes

Well, election day has come and gone in California, and the people have spoken. They want to take the fiscal mistakes of the past and pawn them off on the taxpayers of the future, they want to politically reward a governor who was elected on an idiotic promise--one he faithfully upheld to his credit--but that helped exacerbate the fiscal mistakes of the past, and they want to keep allowing a small minority in the state legislature to hijack the budget every year in the name of "no more taxes."

That's right. Proposition 56 failed and Propositions 57 and 58 both sailed through.

So what does this mean? It means it's time for a rant.

Liberals can talk about the way the right has poisoned the debate in this country, from Nixon's "Southern Strategy" of thinly veiled racism to gay-bashing to anti-abortion rhetoric, but the real damage--the worst damage, I will argue--they've done to society is in the right's destruction of the social contract by demonizing taxation by appealing to the selfish side of people.

The social contract--remember that? The little idea that in a society, by binding together and pooling resources we can accomplish huge tasks that none of us can handle on our own? The idea that we as a society are judged by how we treat the least among us (a concept lost on the religious right, I might add)? You know what fuels that contract, what turns it from mere rhetoric into action? Taxes.

Taxes are the dues we pay in order to have an advanced society. They're not theft, and yet that is exactly how the right has portrayed them for years. You want to know why our highway system is crumbling? Why we don't have reasonable security at our nation's ports and airports? Why our border is so porous? Why our schools are falling down around our childrens' ears? It's because we have allowed the right to demonize the idea of taxation to the point where anyone who mentions a tax hike of any sort is unelectable, because even those of us who don't earn enough to pay any appreciable sort of taxes won't vote to increase them on those who will pay them.

And the problem is related to how the left has allowed the right to frame the debate.

Someone tell me what defines the "middle class" in this country. What income range is it? Because I'll be damned if I know. And that's the problem--nobody knows. Too many people assume they're in the middle class, and the upper class is playing us for fools as a result.

You want to know how to argue for tax increases in this country? Put a hard number on it. John Kerry--now that he's presumptively the nominee--ought to go on the campaign trail and tell voters this.

If you make over $150,000 a year, then you have a responsibility to pay a little more in taxes than you do right now. We've got a huge deficit, and we've got more bills coming due, and quite frankly, the folks making less than you are can't pay any more because they've been hit harder by the current economic crunch that's been worsened by those tax breaks George Bush gave you. So you've got to pony up. If you don't make $150,000 a year, your taxes won't go up. Don't worry.
If you're a corporation, you're going to be taxed on your receipts--none of this hiding profits offshore crap anymore. I'll lower the rate you have to pay, but you're going to pay it on a bigger number. You make money here, so you're going to pay taxes here.

Will we be accused of class warfare? Sure. Is that a bad thing? Only if we allow the right to define what the classes are. Last year, 50% of wage earners in the US made less than $26,000.00. Look at that number closely. How many of those people think they got a tax break from George Bush? And why do they believe it? Could it be because our own politicians are too busy playing the same word game as their "opponents" are?

So enough with this mamby-pamby bullshit. Frame the debate. Put a hard number on the tax issue and tell people below it they don't need to worry and those above it they can either contribute to something larger than themselves and pay the dues that our society needs to function, or they can vote for someone else. Most of them were planning to do that anyway.

Arnie's for gay marriage.
Well, sort of.

If you look at the different quotes throughout this article--and the Tonight Show hasn't come on yet on the West Coast, so I haven't seen this for myself--it looks like Arnold hasn't quite made up his mind, although he's certainly seems to be to the left of not only President Bush, but of both John Kerry and John Edwards based on this. Here are some excerpts.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Monday that same-sex marriages would be "fine with me" if the courts or the voters change state law and make them legal.

Appearing on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," Schwarzenegger said he supports the law approved by California voters last year that proclaims marriage can only involve a man and a woman.
Asked if he would have any problem if the law was changed, Schwarzenegger said, "No, I have no problem."

"Let the court decide," he continued. "Let the people decide. The people have voted just in the last election on Proposition 22. They voted very clearly that marriage is only between a man and woman. That's the law, so we have to abide by the law.

"If the people change their minds and want to overrule that, that's fine with me."
The Republican governor also has distanced himself from President Bush, who endorsed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to outlaw same-sex marriages.

"I think since we have a state law, I think those issues should be left to the state," Schwarzenegger said. "So I have no use for a constitutional amendment or change in that at all."

Now the first thing I want to say is that the bit about being okay with it if the voters change the law is a throwaway line--no politician is likely to say that they'll disagree with a majority of the voters on an issue. But where does he stand on the issue as far as the courts are concerned? He seems to contradict himself on that note, saying in one breath to let the courts decide and then next to let the voters decide.

Personally, I don't like that Schwarzenegger is governor--I thought the recall was a load of crap--but he gets a partial nod from me on this. I imagine the Tom McClintock supporters are wagging their fingers at the Schwarzenegger Republicans and saying "See? We told you."

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